Captain Olazabal!

Spaniard my choice for Ryder Cup post

Bob Warters's picture
Mon, 7 Oct 2002

Olazabal - would make great captain.

It strikes me that Sam Torrance is proving a hard act to follow and the candidates to replace him as European Ryder Cup captain at Oakland Hills in two years time are suddenly backing off.

Torrance wants to concentrate on the Seniors Tour and feels he’ll be out of touch with the players on the team by then, Nick Faldo has changed his mind and although Bernhard Langer has expressed an interest, he, like Faldo believes he may still have a crucial role as a player.

Ian Woosnam would take the job tomorrow, but with Wales hosting in 2010, his appointment may be premature, as would the appointment of Colin Montgomerie, earmarked for 2014, when it scheduled to take place in Scotland.

Torrance was an inspiration at The Belfry against the Americans combining a canny Scots strategy with man management to coax and cajole his players – especially the rookies – to produce golf in the singles above and beyond even their own expectations.

It takes a special kind of person to extract a little bit extra from a player, faced with an opponent which the form book puts in a higher class.

The captain must have the command of total respect from his players, have competed at the very top and known what it’s like to overcome personal and team turmoil and to have the passion to beat a nation which for years has dominated the game.

Stand forward Jose Maria Olazabal Manterola.

But he could still play, you say. He will only be 38 in September 2004 with still at least 12 competitive years before he considers joining his contemporaries on the Senior Tours.

My view is that we’ve seen the best of the Spaniard as a world force and though he may win the occasional tournament closer to home, he will no longer be the force in the rankings which will be demanded under a new selection process.

Already wheels are in motion to select the European team from world as well as European Tour status.

The powerful executive director of the European Tour, Ken Schofield has put forward a Ryder Cup selection masterplan to name the five highest placed players on the world rankings, and the top five in the Volvo Order of Merit, leaving the captain two wildcards.

Under the Schofield system, the automatic choice, based on results upto last week, would have been:

World rankings: Sergio Garcia (5), Padraig Harrington (9), Colin Montgomerie (17), Darren Clarke (20), Bernhard Langer (25).

Volvo Order of Merit (those not already exempt): Justin Rose (5), Jose-Maria Olazabal (12), Thomas Bjorn (13), Paul Lawrie (15), Ander Hansen (16).

Captain’s selection(two from three): Niclas Fasth, Nick Faldo or Jesper Parnevik.

While Olazabal figures prominently in both rankings (also currently 30th in the world), he may not wish to commit himself so strongly to the US Tour and may cut back his European commitment to a minimum to concentrate on his burgeoning course design business.

While he preferred to stay away from The Belfry atmosphere this time, to watch the events at home on TV in Fuenterrabia, he may feel his best contribution could well be as Sam’s immediate successor captain.

And with the likes of Woosnam, Parnevik and Jimenez as his back-up team, he'd not have a short supply of support.

He’s in the Seve mould of total commitment and as a six time Ryder Cup performer, including wins in 1987 and 1997, knows what’s needed in terms of organisation and motivation.

Olazabal’s name has not been mentioned but I believe he’s already been tapped up on the quiet to be a likely contender.



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